Saturday, April 26, 2008

Reason To Believe



Other than the crap from Kenny Bania, it was an amazing night at Philips Arena. Bruce was calling more audibles than Peyton Manning. Over a half-dozen deviations from the posted set list. Here we go:

Blood Brothers - Not actually played live...but used as background music for a very moving Danny Federici tribute video that played as Bruce and the band took the stage. Watch it here.

Reason To Believe - A new, thumping "Sprit In The Sky"-inspired arrangement.

Out In The Street - Audible. I prefer "OITS" a little later in the set. Very minor quibble, though.

Radio Nowhere - Holy crap did this ever smoke! I've never seen Mighty Max throwing his head back and getting all Keith Moon on his kit like he did tonight for "RN."

No Surrender - Audible...and always welcome. Two buddies in their forties in front of me hugged at the "we swore blood brothers against the wind, now I'm ready to grow young again" line. Awwwwwwwe. Seriously, it was a sweet moment.

Blinded By The Light - Audible. Played in tribute to Danny.

Your Own Worst Enemy - Rarely played on this tour. My favorite song from Magic.

Trapped - Awesome. Crowd screaming along. Nobody's sitting down yet.

Murder Incorporated - Audible.

Prove It All Night - Incredible, mind-blowing guitar solo by Nils here.

She's The One - Great Bo Diddley pound-down by Max. We're still not sitting.

Livin' In The Future - Politically charged intro gets 100% positive reaction. I guess the folks bugged by Bruce's politics have simply stopped coming to the shows. Cool. That's more seats for true believers.

The Promised Land - On the set list but an audible in terms of order. "TPL" was supposed to be the third song.

Bobby Jean - Audible. Taken from crowd sign.

Point Blank - And we finally get to sit down and catch our breath.

Devil's Arcade - A little bit of a mass exodus. The crowd has clearly chosen "DA" as tonight's bathroom break song.

The Rising - And we're on our feet again. Nils kinda biffs up the "dream of life" part. He's a little off the beat.

Last To Die - This song really kills live, too. The Magic stuff is really holding its own against the classic hits.

Long Walk Home - See above.

Badlands - Mayhem ensues. Great "whoa-oh" crowd participation during the instrumental break.

(Encore Time)

Thunder Road - Audible in terms of set list placement. Taken from crowd sign.

Born To Run - House lights up, naturally. More mayhem. And just when you think it can't get any more frenzied...

Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) - Audible. Taken from crowd sign. It's a madhouse. Philips Arena is absolutely up for grabs at this point.

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out - Audible. The band tried to leave after "Rosalita" but Bruce stops them. No break...one long encore.

American Land - Including band introductions. Sensational closer for an amazing set.

I really don't know how much longer Bruce and the band can keep this up. Like I said yesterday, these guys aren't getting any younger (and seeing Clarence, who has battled health problems, retreating to an on-stage comfy chair so many times was a little unsettling). But damned if they didn't tear the place up one more time for me last night. I'll figure out where it fits in the overall ranking of Bruce shows I've seen after I've had time to ruminate on it a little bit. All I know right now is I showed a little faith and there was magic in the night again. Bruce has still never, ever let me down. Not once. If you get a chance to see this show...go. You owe it to yourself.

First Of All...Up Yours, Kenny Bania

Tickets blew out so fast for Bruce on the day they went on sale that, in order to get decent seats, Lauren and I bought single seats that were four rows apart (if we'd bought two together, they would've been up in the rafters). So we figured that on the night of the show, someone who was on my row as a single would be more than willing to trade up four rows, that is...be four rows closer to the stage, mind you...and Lauren and I would've been able to sit together.

So, we get to Philips Arena last night and my row is filling up with groups...except for one seat. The seat next to me. I'm thinking, "Oh man...this couldn't be working out better." Finally, about ten minutes before the lights go down, the dude with the seat next to me shows up. Yes, he's alone. Perfect, right? Well, this Kenny Bania (pictured) from Seinfeld-looking jerk refuses to trade up. No good reason given. He just won't do it. He's there by himself and he won't even consider improving his seat/view by four rows to do a solid for a fellow Bruce fan.

You, sir, are an asshole. And I hope you got a flat tire on the way home.

Sorry. Just had to vent.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tonight


It's weird to walk around in the morning knowing that it's going to be one of the most unforgettable days of your life. Yep...It's finally Bruce Day. And I know it's going to be unforgettable because every Bruce concert I've ever attended is permanently etched in my memory. I can tell you who I went with, where we ate, set lists, what every member of the E Street Band was wearing. All of it...absolutely indelible.

The set lists for this particular leg of the Magic tour have been something to behold. Songs from The River that haven't been played in years are turning up. Epic ballads like "Racing In The Street" and "Jungleland" are being played. "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" has been in the regular encore rotation. How I would love to hear "Jungleland" live one more time. You just don't know how many more chances you're going to get to see this amazing band in action...especially given the untimely death of "Phantom Dan" Federici...I can't help but wonder if that's the reason some of these seminal, definitive E Street classics are being dusted off. These guys are all well north of fifty years old now. How long can they keep "burnin' down the road"?

But that's not a question for today. Or, more importantly, for tonight.

Hell all day they're busting you up on the outside
But tonight you're gonna break on through to the inside
And it'll be right, it'll be right, and it'll be tonight

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hyblmania Is Runnin' Wild!

My pal, neighbor, and the pride of Winterville, former UGA great and now professional golfer Ryan Hybl, just had himself one pretty amazing weekend at the Athens Regional Foundation Classic. The tournament, a stop on the PGA's Nationwide Tour, was held over at Jennings Mill Country Club in Bogart and Ryan, who's currently splitting his time between the Hooters and Tarheel tours, was granted an exemption to be one of seven former UGA players in the field.

On Friday, playing in the final group, Ryan was flirting with the "cut line" (after two rounds, the field is cut to the top sixty scorers...plus ties) all the way down the back nine. On his eighteenth hole...as the absolute last guy left out on the course playing...he made a clutch birdie to make the weekend cut. Then, yesterday...in the final round, he went out and shot his third consecutive below-par round to finish in a tie for twenty-fifth overall. Not too shabby for a guy making his Nationwide Tour debut. In fact, one of the players Ryan finished tied with was Aussie Paul Gow, the winner of the inaugural ARFC two years ago.

Here's the best part: The Top-25 finish means "Goodbye, Hooters Tour" (at least for now)...he's now automatically entered in the next Nationwide event, the Henrico County Open in Richmond, Virginia. When I stopped by the Hybls' last night for a quick "congratulations," both Ryan and his wife Rebecca were running around like crazy...trying to balance taking in everyone's best wishes with their new, last-minute travel plans for a week in Richmond. "Dude...there are worse problems to have in this world," I reminded him.

I had the honor and fun of following Ryan around Jennings Mill for his opening and closing rounds. Lauren even tagged along on Sunday. We got to meet Ryan's parents and other Team Hybl supporters from around the country. It was a pure blast and I've got no doubt that one day we'll be following him around Sugarloaf or East Lake as a member of the PGA Tour.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Rock Bottom...The Absolute Nadir


Good god...Hillary Clinton throwing back a shot of Crown Royal. Unless she goes to Indiana today and shows that she can write her name in the snow or she lights up a few farts with some good ol' boys in North Carolina, this has to be the most idiotic stunt yet in a Clinton campaign of pratfalls and falling britches. All of this was, of course, prompted by the undeniable assertion by Barack Obama that a country where seven out of ten people think the country's going in the wrong direction might have a few folks who could accurately be classified as "bitter."

Well...fuck yes, I'm bitter. I'm bitter about the direction of this country and I'm particularly walking around with a permanent bitter beer face because Hillary Clinton is doing her damndest to make sure John McCain takes us down that same road for another four years. Of course McCain is going to make hay out this...but where does the Clinton campaign get off? The only proper response from a fellow Democrat to Obama's remarks should be, "Well...we may be caught up in a heated battle but I damn sure agree that working class Democrats have plenty of effing reasons to be bitter."

I've gone from being resigned to holding my nose and voting for this woman if she steals the nomination to wearing a head-to-toe biohazard suit into the booth. Ive got babies and I fear too much for their future to ever put John McCain within reaching distance of The Button...but dammit Hillary Clinton is pissing me off to no fucking end whatsoever. Don't fall for this crap, Pennsylvania...

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Final Four Predictions


From what I understand, they also have a men's Final Four. I don't give a good-sized tinnerman's rip about it.


Game One: (1)Stanford vs. (1)Connecticut - I'm not a big believer in Stanford. Never have been. Until proven otherwise upon the court, West Coast women's college basketball is the punk kid sister of the game that is played here back East. Stanford lucked out and played their way into the Final Four against another fraud number-one seed...the team that was awarded the number-one that by all rights should've gone to LSU...Maryland. The Cardinal have a wonderful stud player in Candice Wiggins, who has had a stellar career...but Connecticut has The Future (if not The Present) on their side in All-Everything freshman sensation Maya Moore. Nobody has "D"ed-up on Stanford like Connecticut is going to tomorrow night. The Huskies roll up on The Cardinal in a laugher.

Game Two: (2)LSU vs. Tennessee - Anyone who knows me knows that I have a disdain that borders on the pathological for all things orange and Tennessee. But even I can't take delight in the Lady Vols' superstar and future number-one WNBA draft pick Candace Parker dislocating her shoulder in Tennessee's Elite Eight win over Texas A&M. Parker's shoulder popped out twice against the Aggies and she was clearly ailing when she returned to the game after having it re-set and taped up. That's all the blood in the water LSU's Sylvia Fowles, Erica White and their all-time good guy coach Van Chancellor are going to need to smell. This is LSU's mind-boggling fifth consecutive trip to the Final Four...and they're going to the championship game. The Lady Tigers win a tight one..with a final margin that maybe gets artificially bumped with free throws at the end...over the Lady Vols.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Don't Take Your Guns To Town, Son


I'm so relieved that I can now finally...legally...pack heat when I bop into Loco's or Beef O'Brady's. After all, one never knows when some no-account, ornery varmint like Liberty Valance (above) is going to show up and knock your chicken fingers basket out of your hands.
And on MARTA, too? Even better. Nobody's taking Pelham One-Two-Three (above) on my vigilant watch. God bless the gold-domers for seeing to it that never again will I have to worry about stepping with the kids into a Chuck E. Cheese outgunned. And to think, most state legislatures use these last-minute proceedings for running through wild-ass, unreasonable crap like allowing an adult to buy a beer on Sunday.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sadly, "Nature" Takes Its Course

I've got a friend who ribs me every time I blog about wrestling. I'll hear from him today.

The Post-Ric Flair Era began this morning. After losing his retirement match with Shawn Michaels at Wrestlemania on Sunday, they threw "The Nature Boy" one helluva going-away party on RAW last night. They brought out just about all of the former Horsemen (Paul Roma and Steve McMichael were nowhere to be seen, thank god). They brought out the man that Flair has always called his favorite opponent, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. The legends came out: Harley Race, Greg "The Hammer" Valentine. The stars of today were introduced: John Cena, Chris Jericho, Triple H, HBK. There were some glaring omissions (where were Terry Funk, Jack Brisco, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan, and...imagine the crowd pop if TNA had allowed him to attend...Sting?) but the Horsemen reunion more than made up for it. Of course, Flair's family was also on hand...and I've gotta say, Ric's hot daughters and wives put to shame any of the ring-rat entourages "Naitch" used to have on his arm on TV back in the day. Yowza! Finally, all the wrestlers backstage surrounded the ring and serenaded Flair with a chant of "Thank you, Ric!"

And even though it's rare to ever hear the name "McMahon" and "class" in the same sentence, it was indeed quite classy for Vince and his family to not impose themselves upon a celebration that was clearly meant for "the boys." According to those in attendance in Orlando last night, the McMahons did finally come to the ring after the RAW broadcast had left the air. In addition, The Undertaker also came out after the TV cameras were shut off to pay his respects. If you're a Flair fan, it was a scene you'll never forget...and one that WWE will hopefully release on a DVD at some point.

Without getting too "It's still real to me, dammit!" about the whole thing, I've gotta say...Ric Flair was one of the most important figures of my childhood. When I was a kid, Ric Flair was a legitimate sports icon...just like Muhammad Ali or Hank Aaron. As I grew older and began to look at pro-wrestling with more of a critical eye, I began to appreciate the way Flair made an opponent look like a million bucks. One sloppy and painless-looking elbow from Dusty Rhodes would sent Ric bouncing from ringpost to ringpost like an out-of-control Plinko chip. He carried notable stiffs like Lex Luger and Nikita Koloff to memorable matches. Put him in there with another guy who could go, like Steamboat, and you'd get a 45-minute or hour-long classic from which you'd be afraid to turn away. You might miss one of many "Holy shit!" moments.

As incredible a wrestler as Flair was, he was an even better talker. If you've got the Flair 3-disc DVD set or the 2-disc Four Horsemen DVD set, you can see normally stonefaced badasses like Tully Blanchard and Arn Anderson biting their lips and turning away from the camera because they're on the verge of cracking up at some hysterically over-the-top Ric Flair interview. I don't know if Bartlett's Familiar Quotations has made room for "To be the man, you've gotta beat the man" or "Wheelin', dealin', kiss-stealin', limousine-ridin', jet-flyin' son of a gun" yet, but they damn well ought to.

So it's the end of an era for me. I could be an old fart and say I'm done with it now...but, hell, I've quit watching wrestling so many times and always came back that it's pretty clear it's got a hammerlock on me. But this is tough. Real tough. So long, "Naitch." You'll always be real to me, dammit.